Sunday, September 30, 2007

UWRF Report: In Conversation with Hamid Basyaib

The conference started with a bang.

During the very first panel at Indus, Debra Yatim talked with Hamid Basyawib about his organization, Liberal Islamic Network (Jaringan Islam Liberal or JIL for short), and why it incites many things among Indonesian Islamic communities—-warmth is definitely not one of them. More like burning heat.

Hamid himself is a prolific writer and has edited about 30 books. He wrote humor, religious, and social columns. He also shows both a great and brave sense of humor—since it involves a sensitive issue: religion.

For instance, he once threw a question in one of his columns, "Why did God choose a single male representative for spreading the way of life, when he could do it more effectively by speaking on a platform, in a stadium, during the World Cup final?"

Hamid noted that in Indonesia, "liberal" is a dirty word. A dominant muslim figure once advised him that [the muslim communities] have no problem with JIL views. "But could you please drop ‘liberal’ from its name?"

"What’s your opinion on more and more Indonesian women who start wearing jilbabs?" asked Debra. Instead of giving a straight answer, Hamid revealed an interesting history: jilbab, scarf, or anything similar in function was actually prestigious clothing. When people began flocking to the Prophet Muhammad’s house for guidance, they formed long queues. Mostly were men. And some of them flirted around with the Prophet’s youngest wife, Siti Aisyah. Then came the divine instruction for Aisyah to wrap herself in the most nonrevealing clothes.

Most of the women were jealous of what they considered as a special attention. So they asked permission from the Prophet to wear the same clothes. And then they did the same. So it was more like a prestigious trend at the time. Fashion. Copylefted designer clothing labels, endorsed by the Almighty. Hamid emphasized how we should view instances such as these along with the related condition at the time.

Debra asked Hamid what about the negative voices about how JIL promotes secularism? Hamid responded by saying that most muslims who brag about previous Islam’s contribution towards science, such as maths and optical lenses, didn’t bother to check that those scientists were actually secularists. Islam’s influence became prominent in the world when scientific advancement went hand-in-hand with cultural advancement. However, Islamic countries nowadays cling stubbornly to the practices of the past.

He ended the talk with the focus on de-Arabization of Islam. When asked what was his reaction when confronted by the majority of Indonesian muslim communities that the Liberal Islamic Network views reflect the West point of view, Hamid replied, "Maybe because Islam is also the religion of the West. And North. And South."

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